Will Zanab and Cole from "Love Is Blind" Stay Together?
An evidence-based assessment to see if this couple can last.
Posted November 7, 2022 | Reviewed by Vanessa Lancaster
- Research-based predictors of divorce are criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling.
- Happy marriages need a ratio of 5:1 positive interactions for every negative interaction.
- Open communication and empathy are necessary ingredients for a successful marriage.
Spoiler Alert: I will discuss examples and plots from season 3 of Love Is Blind in this post. If you haven't seen it, you may want to watch it first and read this after.
On the popular Netflix show Love Is Blind, 30 contestants are brought together to have true blind dates. They date the other contestants in "pods" which prevents them from seeing each other. The idea is that contestants can form deep emotional connections and choose a spouse based on personality compatibility instead of looks. They have 10 days to find a life partner.
The contestants who get engaged after these 10 days are then able to see each other and take a short vacation to see if they have physical chemistry. During this vacation, they also get to meet the other engaged contestants, which can stir up drama as physical attractions confuse the previously established emotional ones.
From there, contestants live together in an apartment and integrate into each other's lives as much as possible before they get married. They meet each other's family and friends, negotiate sharing a living space and conflicting schedules, and plan their wedding which is now four weeks away. The highest moment of drama is when they're standing at the altar, deciding whether or not to say "I do."
Zanab and Cole
The season 3 couples on Love is Blind all seem to be on the rocks. One pair, SK and Raven, made it to the wedding day, only to have SK say, "I don't."
We know that Nancy says yes, but we are waiting to find out if Bartise will do the same. I think everyone is hoping Colleen doesn't commit to Matt, who exhibits apparent abusive behaviors. In contrast, we're all rooting for Alexa and Brennon, who seem happy and solid.
And then there's Zanab and Cole.
Their relationship has had highs and lows. They seem completely in love at times, but those moments don't last, and suddenly they're in a dramatic argument.
(Let me add the usual disclaimer that this is a television show; it has been heavily edited to be entertaining and dramatic. Many moments don't make the cut, and Zanab and Cole may have great interactions that we don't see. Zanab's accusations during the reunion episode have added to the complex picture of their relationship, although without seeing footage of what she claims Cole did and said, it can't be included in this post.)
As much fun as it is to speculate and weigh in with personal opinions, there is actual research that can tell us if they would have a successful marriage. Let's take a look.
The 4 Horsemen of Divorce
Research by the Gottman Institute has identified four predictors of divorce (which John Gottman calls "the four horsemen"). They are criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. When a newlywed couple exhibits these behaviors, they are much more likely to get divorced, with contempt being the best predictor out of all of them.
Unfortunately for Zanab and Cole, criticism and contempt frequently appear in their interactions. There are also many moments of defensiveness, although I'd argue they cross the line into gaslighting.
Zanab's Critical Nature: This relationship is full of criticism. Zanab freely points out Cole's flaws, starting their first day together when she made a passive-aggressive comment about Cole leaving his towel on the bathroom floor. She corrects almost everything he does.
It's worth noting that it's okay for her to complain about towels on the floor and ask Cole to pick them up, which she does. But criticism is a step farther. A complaint is a specific request, whereas a criticism is an attack on a person's personality or character. The frequency and breadth of Zanab's complaints turn into general criticisms of who Cole is and how he lives.
Cole's Veiled Criticism: Cole does not directly criticize Zanab's actions in the way she does. However, he makes her feel bad about herself in other ways, such as by talking about other contestants being more attractive than her. For example, when Zanab asks Cole to rate her looks, he responds by saying she's a 9 out of 10.
Zanab twists the knife by asking if other contestants are a 10 and Cole walks right into this one, saying that Raven and Colleen are.
Cole misses the nuance of this interaction. He appears to think that Zanab is asking a surface-level question and wants an honest answer, when really she is reaching out for reassurance. She is looking for him to show his attraction and affection, only to be met with a brutally honest response about where she ranks among the girls.
This failed attempt to connect lands heavily on Zanab. She remembers his words and it damages her sense of security in their relationship.
Zanab Displays Contempt: The best predictor of divorce, contempt, is something we witness in their relationship. Contempt is fueled by a negative view of your partner and the belief that you are better than your partner. It is often communicated through emotionally abusive comments, such as mocking or imitating, as well as facial expressions, like eye-rolling and sneering.
Zanab appears to have contempt toward Cole. She seems to genuinely dislike him as a person- his playfulness, his humor, his cooking skills, and so on. She isn't as aggressive or intimidating as Matt is to Colleen, but still, she communicates her sense of superiority through her sarcasm, eye-rolling, criticism, and ridicule of Cole.
The Magic 5:1 Ratio
The Gottman Institute also found that happy relationships have a ratio of 5 positive interactions for every negative interaction. And this is the minimum; more positive to less negative is even better.
Do Zanab and Cole have a 5:1 ratio? From what we've seen, no. Their positive interactions are few and far between. More often, we see Zanab being upset with or harsh to Cole, and Cole hurting Colleen by shaking her sense of security and self-esteem.
This couple needs more kindness, appreciation, and fun if they're going to make it.
A Play-by-Play Example of the Toxic Behaviors
There are many moments we could dissect but the kitchen scene from episode 9 is a great example of how they have more negative interactions than positive ones, and how criticism and contempt show up in their relationship. It's their last night together before getting married. Before this point, they've gotten engaged, had a rocky vacation in Malibu, and lived together for several weeks.
In this interaction, Cole makes dinner for Zanab. He offers Zanab wine when she walks in the door from work, and as he uncorks the bottle, Zanab gets in her first dig: "I'm excited you're finally cooking for me; you said you were going to for so long." (Passive-aggressive.)
"You started the chicken early. Aren't the potato fries going to take ages?" Zanab asks. (Complaint.) Cole dodges this by saying they'll eat the fries later.
Cole then playfully flips the chicken in the pan and looks to Zanab to join in the fun. She responds, "Why don't you just use tongs or something?" (Complaint).
She then scolds him for how he's holding the chicken and takes the spatula from him, tersely saying, "This was supposed to be you cooking for me, babe." Now she's unhappy that she's cooking the chicken, even though she insisted on taking over. (Controlling, blaming, and criticizing.)
"This is a very white, not seasoned piece of chicken. Please season it." (Complaint.)
Despite each jab, Cole tries to keep the mood light-hearted. He doesn't get angry or hurt. He tries to fix each problem. But Cole tries to fix it in a playful way, by pulling out a Nerf gun and shooting a ball at her which, of course, doesn't deescalate the tension. Zanab likely needs a more direct approach for securing emotional connection.
The topic changes to their wedding, and Zanab confirms she is wearing a black dress to "mourn" her singledom. (Passive aggressive? Humorous? Hard to tell.) Then Zanab starts listing Cole's flaws—towels on the bathroom floor, dishes aren't put away, trash not taken out quickly enough—but still claims she wants to marry him. (Criticism.)
While Cole questions if Zanab likes him, she flips the script, saying it sounds like he doesn't want to marry her. (Defensive, evasive, and manipulative.) Here, Cole is the one reaching out for reassurance, and he does not receive it.
Cole responds honestly, saying he "doesn't feel good about this" relationship, and Zanab gives him a cold and unempathetic response: "I don't know what to tell you" (Dismissive and uncaring.) Again, Cole is reaching out for connection and is met with an emotional wall.
To be fair, in previous episodes, Zanab has been the one to express insecurity about the relationship and ask Cole for reassurance, and Cole has similarly dropped the ball, such as when he ranked her looks as 9 out of 10 while giving two other contestants a top score.
Cole nails it on the head when he says, "I want a wife who laughs with me and builds me up, and isn't pissed, and ticked, and perturbed by every little thing that happens that isn't ideal."
"I would expect my wife to just like, like me a little bit more, I guess," Cole says.
Zanab responds, "How can you think I don't like you?", even though Cole has just explained why he feels this way. Now she's entered gaslighting territory, invalidating his emotional experience and telling him he's wrong about his feelings, and demanding evidence to justify why he feels a certain way.
When Zanab asks Cole what he needs to feel liked by her, and Cole says, "To not feel like I'm inferior."
There it is. The definition of contempt.
Somehow, despite Zanab's unkindness, she's the one to leave the house in a huff. Again, this is manipulative. Zanab is punishing Cole for expressing his feelings and doubts. She dismisses, questions, invalidates, and gaslights him.
Zanab does not try to see Cole's perspective. She does not show concern for how he's feeling. She does not attempt to see how she may have hurt him, or apologize, or commit to working on being a better partner. She doesn't seem invested in making this relationship work, which we later learn to be true.
The Final Prediction
This relationship probably doesn't have a strong future. Research on marital success would predict that if they do get married, it won't be for long. Neither will be happy in this marriage unless profound changes are made.
If they want to make it work, I'd recommend they keep dating (and go to couples therapy) and not say "I do" on-screen. But something tells me neither of them will want to tie the knot.
Post-Reunion Episode Update
The reunion episode has confirmed that this relationship was not meant to be. During the reunion, Zanab shares that she felt Cole was body shaming her, leading to her restricting her food intake during filming. Cole expresses his surprise to hear this and says he is unaware that he was having that effect. The other female contestants take Zanab's side, with Alexa even calling Cole "deceitful."
The interactions that Zanab discusses were not aired and thus we cannot confirm her claims, although the producers do cheekily show "the cuties story," which shows a more nuanced interaction than Zanab portrayed. A brief summation, in this scene, Zanab and Cole eat some fruit while they discuss having a wedding reception in England. Zanab grabs two cuties (small oranges), and Cole says Zanab should save her "appetito" for dinner.
If the cuties scene teaches us anything, it's that one interaction can be taken two very different ways.
Zanab's self-acknowledged insecurity and low self-esteem primes her to perceive Cole's comments as harsh attacks on her eating habits and body. Cole sees it differently, unaware that his remark about saving her appetite for dinner would cause such an effect. And although Zanab references her food restriction, she doesn't tell him why she's eating less, even when Cole directly asks, adding to the misalignment and misunderstanding.
Following their time in the pods, this couple struggled with open, non-defensive communication. They struggled to give the benefit of the doubt to each other. And they struggled with lifestyle incompatibilities, personality differences, and built up resentments.
Zanab and Cole are a good case for taking things slow. Racing to the altar gave them no time to work through their communication issues, misunderstandings, hurts, and resentments. It's another good reason to not get married on the show.
Coelen, C. (Creator and Executive Producer). (2022, October.) Love is Blind. [TV Series]. Netflix.
Gottman, J., Coan, J., Carrere, (1998.) Predicting marital happiness and stability from newlywed interactions. Journal of Marriage and Family, 60(1), 5-22. https://doi.org/10.2307/353438